tv Lectures in History CSPAN November 27, 2016 12:00am-1:27am EST
the general contractor has in mind that what the architect has in mind. announcer: talking about george book.gton in his new >> what they want to do was recruit washington. hamilton had already talked to washington before about democracy. of course, washington is a true republican. he believed in republican government. announcer: sunday night on c-span's q&a. on lectures in history, hadley arkes teaches history lesson on the laws of government.
he describes the influence of aristotle and ibrahim lincoln. the class debates how moral truth relates to law decided by majority. this class is about and hour and a half. prof. arkes: let's do a bit of a recap, because we have people joining us now, and an audience coming in for the first moments of this course when we are still setting the groundwork. remember, this course is called political obligation." it takes its title from the defining cutting-edge of political life. the defining mark of the political order is the presence of law, the task to make decisions that are binding and everyone that comes in the territory. the root of obligations, obligare, the latin, the same as bind.
the defining character of the law is it does bind, it sweeps away personal taste, private choice, overwrite private beliefs to enforce a uniform rule. unless we see just a brute exercise of power, establishes its own justification. those creatures have given understanding, inclined by how do you justify the state of affairs in which some people with the authority of office can impose their judgment, the force of law, on everyone else. we begin with the best place to begin, the study of politics with aristotle. aristotle says that the policy is of that class of things that exists by nature. it is as much a part of a nature as trees and rocks.
but from what nature? the nature that contains human things along with things that are superhuman. so aristotle says humans alone in the animal kingdom can do more to indicate pleasure and pain but also give reason. good or bad? right or wrong, just or unjust. the laws springs from the nature of one kind of creature. from what part of that nature? give reasons to over matters of right and wrong. there is only one kind of creature who understands what it means to bear a commitment or in obligation even when it may run counter to their own inclinations or interests. the connection to the groundwork of moral judgment
means we must understand what we mean by "moral.". meanll move from what we by moral to the level of moral judgment, we are moving radically away from the statements of personal feelings, private taste, and we speak about things in a general universal, right or wrong, just or unjust, which is to say good or bad, just or unjust for others as well as ourselves. and so, if we think it is wrong, sometimes this team seems like bloomingdale's on a saturday. if you think it is wrong for parents to torture a child, or one man to hold another as a slave, we say whom does it wrong -- for whom is it wrong? the answer is, it could be wrong for anyone, forever. if we come to the judgment it is wrong for parents to torture their child, the next line is not, we would give people tax incentives to stop this. we will offer them a dvd player or a premium.
if we come to the judgment that is wrong, the logic of moral judgment and joins us to forbid that wrong to whom, to anyone, to everyone and forbid it by the force of law. it may mean we make everything is illegal that we regard as wrong and hold back from pressing policies to the very limit of this logic. the purpose of the law is to move people to virtue, not to suddenly, but gradually. as aquinas said of that first principle, practical judgment, the good is that which we are obliged to do. the wrong which we are obliged to refrain from doing. to punish people when they do it. that's we stop using the language of like and dislike and
to start using the language of right and wrong. because someone may rightly be punished for what he is doing. we look at lincoln in the cooper union speech, if slavery were right, if it were right, then all laws and constitutions against it would be wrong. all words against it would be wrong. if i conceded to you that slavery was right, i would concede to you the rightness to screen out abolitionist literature if slavery were right, and all the rest would be wrong. moral judgment works in this way. we simply carve out the things we regard as wrongful, that leads us free by direction to make our choices. in that vast domain of things legitimate from which to choose. so again, the polus law springs
from a nature that is distinctly human. detached from the law, aristotle says, human beings may be the worst of animals. because of the powers of cultivation and craft, they may bring on a force not straight by any moral inhibition. anyone outside of the law, anyone outside could be above the law and underneath the law. it does not require the teaching or strength of the law, or it could be beneath the law but he is cut off from that kind of teaching that the law may offer. he may be then, either a beast or a god. now, putting every thing together, let's see how the pieces fall to place with a quick review. aristotle tells us human beings alone are destined by nature for political life. if a life of politics must spring from that nature, what is
distinct from human beings? it is the capacity for moral judgment. to give reasons over matters of right and wrong. he might say the logic of moral judgment virtually entails what is necessary, the logic of law. and once we come to that judgment, a again, the act of torturing children, and the sweep of that recognition and universally for bid it with a force of law. with that, i think the pieces will fall into place. if that connection to moral judgment and character supplies the substance of political life. you ready to go on? i want you with me every second
of the way. i want to be sure you are with me. what we are doing here, she doesn't cough without consequences. she costs that a certain moment. certainoughs at a moment. all right. we take that next step and show the same set of understanding, to put in place the groundwork in politics, the next steps that move with them, to the american founding, are the conclusions drawn by the american founders and that government by the consent of the governed is the only legitimate form of government over human beings. [coughing] lindsay, you might want to go to the back. >> i'm sorry. prof. arkes: ok. that theritical point
exercise over others called out the justification. it is one of those things that can be grasped as known and true in itself. only for those who seem to be constituted the part where we given understanding for look for a reason. as i said, even the youngster. the child who was beaten up seems to understand the success of some people in beating him up does not set up the brightness of beating him up. there is that critical point that will separate him from justice holmes as we will see later. there is things it has to be justified, but nowhere me with -- was nowhere made with more eloquence and force than in the opening section of the social contract. he said, strength is a physical attribute and i fail to see how any moral sanctions can attach
to its defense. to the strong is an active necessity, not of will. it is the result of dictate of prudence. how then can it come a duty? to admit that might makes right is to reverse the process of effect in court. a mighty man who defeats his rival becomes the heir to his right. as soon as i defeat him i establish i was right in defeating him. so as soon as we can disobey with impunity, disobedience becomes legitimate. the mighty is always right, it remains for us to become possessed of might. but then he asks, what validity can there be in a right that changes hands as soon as power changes hands? athe says, if i am waylaid
a the --f the woods by by a thief that forces his gun to hand over my purse or wallet, if i can manage to take it from him, is it my duty to hand it over? his pistol is a symbol of power. it must be valid then that might does not incur right, no man is under any obligation to obey anything but the legitimate powers of the state. in other words, the point is that the mere success of some people in seizing and holding power is not itself the moral justification for the exercise of power. power must convert itself into authority with legitimate claim to rule. we can ask, what is presupposing?
it may not occur to all creatures, but it does seem to rise only for those things that medicine called morally those -- moral agents. who took reason over matters of right and wrong. why do you justify this ruling over me? that gives us a sense of where we begin, where this case for governed by consent or natural equality begins. it begins with the founding, with any quality that exists in -- inequality that exists in nature. it went this way. that no man is by nature the ruler of other men in the way that god is by nature the ruler of men, and men are by nature the ruler of horses and cows. therefore you find in the world a state of affairs which some
men are in the position of ruling over others, that state of affairs could not have a -- could not have arisen from nature. arisen from the alternative. convention, arrangement, consent. here is what it sounded like with john locke. he said, commanding all the workmanship of one wise maker and being furnished with like faculties, showing all one community of nature but cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that they authorize us to destroy one another as if we were made for one another's uses that the inferior ranks of creatures are made for ours. and rousseau put it this way. he said no man has natural , governing over another, might
can produce no right, the only foundation left for legitimate ishority in human society agreement. hence the move of the american founders. the declaration of independence. it must arise from the consent of the governed. massachusetts, declared in a resolution in may, 1776 that the only form of government which we wish to see establish is a republic -- see established is a republic, that we could never be willingly subjected to any other he being possessed of infinite rectitude is allowing with infinite power. james wilson of philadelphia after whom we have named our new institute said, supreme power would not deeply justify him who
is supreme. but for the rest of us sub luminary creatures, it is government by consent. those from a jewish background [speaking hebrew] what does the melach mean? mr. shapiro? >> king. prof. arkes: we recognize king as a god over others. no man was by nature in rule of other men. men are rulers by nature of horses and cows, and jefferson will later say in a letter, anyone who denies that, anyone who denies that has to assume the mass of mankind were born with saddles on their backs and
a privileged few were born with spurs on. ready to ride them. like animals in distinction to others. and then four score and two years later, stephen douglas says in debate with lincoln, the country is made on a white basis for white people. if it comes down to dispute between a white man and a black man, i am decisively on the side of the white man. but if it ever comes down to it, he says, to dispute between the black man and the crocodile, i am for the black man. and lincoln, who did not have the advantage of analogy, turns to the audience and says, what douglas is telling you is that the black man is to the white man as the crocodile is to the black man, and the only way he
can make the case for removing from black people the rights that would flow to them by nature is by assimilating black people to the things that are subhuman. so the question was raised, what the founders said in the declaration, all men, did they in fact mean all men? douglas said no, they meant all white men. all white men are equal to all white people in britain, so it is as harry johnson said, those claiming a natural right to all men everywhere would be british. which would make a fine argument in a gilbert and sullivan opera, but would not make sense of what lincoln was saying. lincoln said, let's read it douglas' way. all white people here are equal to all white people in britain, the french, germans and catholics who came later, they are all going to go with
douglas' inferior races. what abraham lincoln is doing consistently in his argument is trying to -- in his rhetorical strategy -- is to try to draws back to the original image he keeps pointing out. the argument is whether those rights in the declaration, are they natural? are they grounded in something enduring in nature that will separate human beings from animals, and whether we expect to see the same rights held in every other place where nature remains the same. africa,it is asia whether it is run for human beings to rule black people as human people rule dogs and
in the fourth century, is it the same? that is the argument at work here. lincoln is trying to draw back to the original sense of men and animals. equal justice is this. inasmuch as you don't object when i bring my hot to nebraska, i should object when you bring your slave. all of it would make sense if there is no difference between a hog and a man. and then he says, in 1820, congressmen from the south, you have it in your book, in 1820, harry johnson's book. he says in 1820 congressmen from the south joined congressmen in the north by making the african slave trade a form of piracy, and annexing to that crime the punishment of death. they say, what is the problem?
groescatching a few wild ne from the coast of africa and seeing who would buy them. he never thought of paying people for selling and catching wild buffalo, wild horses, wild bears. then he says there are in the united states in addition to what we have now some 433,000 free black people. at $500 per head, they are worth now about $200 million, but how come, he says, this vast amount of property should be running about without their owners? you don't see free horses running about, cattle? these free black people are the descendents of slaves or they have been slaves themselves and would be slaves now were it not for something operating on their tote owners, inducing them make the vast pecuniary
sacrifice to liberate them. they ask, what is that something? there is no mistaking it. it is your sense of justice and human sympathy telling you that the poor negro has some natural right to himself, but those who deny it and make the merchandise of him deserve kicking contempt and death. then he says, how would you now deny the humanity of the slave and reckon him only the equal of the hawk? why would u.s. chris to do what you would not do your self? why would you ask us to do what you would not do for nothing? $200 million did not induce you to this? again, when he was doing was returning to that original imagery, what separated humans from other animals by the same
ground as aristotle. the question was, whether those rights from something truly in nature, or if they were simply creatures of what we call positive law. not positive as opposed to negative, but positive in the sense of posited. set down. enacted. now the tradition of that law there is always a place, must , have a place for what we call posited law. but underneath that there might always be a deeper principle we might call natural law that we understand that would tell us why we want to have a lot of there in the first place. think about signs on the highway , 35, 55 -- those numbers have no significance in themselves, but behind those numbers is the principle that will tell us why we could be wanted in interfering it in
with the freedom of people to drive at speeds that may be inappropriate and put innocent lives at hazard. we have to make a transition from this underlying principle to some regulation that would translate that into terms that there are under circumstances the terrain before us. 70 miles an hour in the open highway, 35 on this winding road. you understand what is going on there. but we also have this awareness. i went over this a bit i think on the first day. commontes that arise in language. so the example i offer the other day was, a visitor gets off the plane in london. in new york.
we assume we don't have to look at the passport and consider citizenship would protect him from a lawless assault on the street. but we understand the same man himself over on that day to apply and enroll in the city university of new york. that the people of new york make available out of their generosity. to make it available to other citizens of new york. we also have to understand the rights that seem to arise for human beings wherever they are, it they don't have to consult his passport to protect him from lawlessness. as opposed to rights that are enacted in particular enclaves that make him under generosity or the sufferance of the local population. the right to use the squash courts at amherst college. you have got to understand what engaged between lincoln and douglas is douglas thought they
were internal principles, natural rights. we created these because they came out of culture. we posit them. we have created them. mi right not to be subjected to slavery. the right to use squash courts at amherst. the point he was making was that -- thehts depends on point is that douglas wanted to all of our rights are only because they have been set down and could be withdrawn by the will or judgment of the people in power to extend and remove those rights. but lincoln understood the case
and principle against slavery, the favor of government by consent, was the saying in all places. the case against slavery was the same as the case for government by consent. and so lincoln said the doctrine of self government is right. absolutely and eternally right and separate him from the barack obama here. obama rejects this declaration, expressed a truth let alone what lincoln calls an absolute truth. the doctrine of the right is absolutely eternal, but whether that applies to black people depends upon whether the negro is or is not a man. if he is not a man, in that a man may in the matter of self-government do with him as he pleases. but if he is a man, is it not to that extent of total destruction of self-government to say that
he too shall not govern himself? are they what you regard as human beings, or are they on the chain of beasts between us and something else? and lincoln offered a fragment here that i have used in every turn as a classic illustration of the natural law argument. it was a fragment he wrote and on page 36 ofp price of the house divided. i say it in my own book. lincoln imagines a conversation with the owner of a slave, put into question, why are you making a slave of a black man? anyone who hears it grasps at once. aquinas said, the divine law we know through revelation but the natural law we know through reasoning that is is accessible
to human beings. as human beings, and in my experience, anyone who hears lincoln's fragment understands it at once and understanding it they grasp the sense of natural law. he said, why is that black man any less of a human being? is he less intelligent than you? then beware. the next smart man that comes along may rightfully enslave you. is it because he is darker than you? the next man that comes along with a complexion lighter than you may enslave you. there was nothing you could site you.would disqualify from being enslaved by anyone walking around. notice that nowhere in the chain of argument is there an appeal to faith. a revelation. it is an argument that can be
understood across religious division, catholics, baptists, atheists. i used to say chicago cub fans but that one is gone now. you do not have to be a genius in other words to understand this. you don't need a college education. you just have to understand it is acceptable to human beings as human beings and later on we can use the same argument about the unborn child. why is that unborn child in the one less of a human being who does not deserve protection of the law? he doesn't speak yet. doesn't have arms or legs. other people lose arms and legs in the course of their lives. they do not lose anything necessary to their standing of a human being. if it does not apply to the child in the womb, it would not apply to many children walking around. you don't have to be catholic to understand that argument.
but that of course has been the position of the church. this is not a matter of faith. this is a matter of natural law, the kind of principled reasoning that lincoln uses. so anytime you hear people say, i do not want to impose my beliefs on people all, that is not the argument of the church. it is a dis-construction of the argument. in the same way, lincoln said, i look at this analysis, his pitch was -- this will not be confined to black people. there is nothing you could cite to justify the enslavement of black people which would not apply to many white people as well. many people were already making the extension. why shouldn't this apply to whites who are not too bright, engaged in manual labor? and, this was the point of the famous house divided speech in june 1858.
a country that can start enslaving black people can start removing the franchise of the vote from certain classes of whites until the democratic peace of the regime becomes fainter and authoritarian features become more pronounced. one historian recalled being in charleston and seeing the system of slavery made explicit in the city and in how people were living outside plantations. they had to carry badges, curfews, sentinels. he saw more of the face of in one night in charleston then he saw in naples in a week. and harry jasper remarks here, ,hen people become in different morally indifferent, they are
putting in place the grounds of their own enslavement and bases -- and they really cease to be a democratic people. i think he is being quite literal. an example i use is this. you think of people going into a voting booth in germany in 1932 ready to vote for hitler's. they are going into the voting booth. they are marking a ballot. they look like people engaging in what we recognize as the behavior of people in an election. we recognize people getting up for a seventh-inning stretch as people at a ballgame. but let's say they are going into that election ready to remove the vote, the natural rights, from the people around them. they no longer respect the equal rights of other human beings to the same vote and the same protection of the law. and i think you have his point. they are going through all the
motions. they are behaving in the way people behave, but in a certain critical way, they have ceased to have a soul of the democratic people. that was the whole point of the house divided speech. that what is at issue here is whether we are going to make different to the enslavement of some of our people and of so, we cannot find a limiting principle. it has to be one way or another and become national in scope. we are going to sleep in illinois as a free country, a free state, and we will wake up in illinois as a slave state. i think he had it quite right as to what was in the works. or rather, where the dynamic of that argument was indeed moving, as we will see later.
in that crisis over secession, people moving out, you find the two issues really joined, and it was no accident the same people who sought to justify the enslavement of other men would insist at the same time, as a matter of high principle, their freedom not to respect the outcome of a free election. george washington's line was, if we establish the right of people to govern itself, if the laws made by that people need not be obeyed. to deny that was to deny the right of people to govern themselves and strike at the principal of all men being created equal. the only right for governance -- but itan being is
is no accident that is being embodied now by the same people who reject the principle of all men are created equal. it does form a package. there is a moment in september 1862 when lincoln was visited by a delegation of clergy from chicago, saying, why don't you make slavery the immediate ground for the fighting of the war? and abraham lincoln said, it is a tricky question. lincoln has to explain to them, you realize there are border states -- missouri, kentucky, delaware -- that will not fight to end slavery. they will fight to end the secession to preserve the union. at a certain point, they will strike at slavery to shorten the war, but if i make slavery the immediate grounds for the war, i might as well be severing the
country. i will lose the connections, the rail connections that link washington to the northeast, i will lose kentucky, the country will split in two. they said, we have a principle at stake, the question of your obligation to obey the results of a free election. and he says, that runs as deep as anything. jaffe remarked on that line. people don't realize that for lincoln, the rebellion against the democratic elected government, the rebellion against the free government, and the wrong of slavery are in point of principle the same. ask yourself this way. if the south is not claiming to get its way by persuading
everybody else in a free election to support our policy, or in the other case, seeking the support among their fellow citizens in other states to break up the union, because other people in other states will have a stake in this matter. a serious stake in this matter. they are not seeking to did it in that way. they're not seeking to get their way through an election. what is the basis on which they are seeking to get their way? what is left? what do we have? if i am not seeking to gain my way by persuading other people and seeking their consent, how am i doing it? >> [inaudible] prof. arkes:s --
absolutely. application of force. might makes right. it is the absolute rejection of any claim that what i'm doing has to be justified. lincoln faced this in the first inaugural. i want to hand some of these passages to you. he turned to the inaugural into kind of a civics lesson. look, go to page four three -- page four. the right-hand column. , it says in the union, is it really true that rights plainly written have been denied? he argues, no, it is not. skipping down further in that paragraph, no organic law can be framed with a provision
specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. no foresight can anticipate or any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. fugitives from labor be surrendered by a national state of authority? that is a question of fugitive slaves. the constitution does not expressly say. may congress prohibit slavery in the territories? the constitution does not expressly say. must congress protect the slavery in the territories? constitution does not say. and now, the critical point. for questions of this kind, all of our constitutional controversy that we divide among
majorities in minorities, now we get to the crux. if the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. there is no other alternative. continuing to govern is acquiescence on one side or the other. if the minority in such a case will sustain rather than acquiesce, they make a president which in turn will divide and ruin them. because minorities will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such a minority. they say look, people are already being tutored in doing this. we have already seen west off.nia hive can we simply assume that the interest of the is seceding states are all convergent and never diverge? what if a state decides to secede from the secession?
what if a county decides to stay with them and secede from the secession to the secession? and then what if a town within the county decides to secede from the secession from the secession from the secession? and what finally, if a person within the town secedes from the secession to the secession to be secession to be secession to the secession , and then he says, plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. anarchy, that meaning without authority, without the ability to make any commitments that are binding. it does not mean people just running around loose, all right?
but look, it is rare that you get a kind of civics lesson being taught by me. a majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations and always changing easily with the changes of popular opinion is the only true sovereign of a free people. that is, the right of the , the majorityle gets the authority to rule from the deeper principle that all men are great equal, government comes from the consent of the government, it is a form of rule within moral, legal restraints. it speaks to the very nature of a moral agent. remember lincoln's line in the debate with douglas. coherently claim a right to do wrong.
you have a person, a moral agent, you can reason about things that are right or wrong. if that is the case, he too may realize he does not have the right to do wrong. he does not have the right to rape or murder just because he is free. right? so, a moral agent, a person, can come to understand is that a free agent in the sovereign control of myself, i don't have the right to do anything. i too have to work within a set of moral and legal restraints, as plato would say. that is, a man under self-control. he has a constitutional ruler within himself. and we ask the question, is that kind of man weaker because he is under self-control, or is he stronger because he is not going -- he is now going to limit his acts and his choices to the things legitimate for him to do? the majority under restraint is the only legitimate, true sovereign of the free people. whoever rejects it does of
necessity fly to anarchy or despotism. unanimity is impossible. unanimity can mean a couple of things. it can mean -- we passed a civil rights law barring racial discrimination in private businesses, but it applies only to people who accept it. unanimity. will that ceases to be a lot, right? it is not a law. or what if you say, we require unanimity before we can have any law, so 99% of the public except as law and 1% reject it, we can have the law. what is the problem with that one? >> [inaudible] prof. arkes: what are we backing into if we say the 1% may rule the 99%?
>> [inaudible] prof. arkes: then you are backing into what abraham lincoln calls the rule of the minority as a permanent arrangement, which is wholly inadmissible. on what grounds is it inadmissible? let's take it down to the rudiments. we form a division, we take the votes. i've got a large pile and a small pile. what is the grounds of a signing authority to the larger pile and -- as signing the authority to the larger pile and not the smaller pile? why wouldn't we let the smaller pile when? this saying was, philosophy is not available to the multitude, it is always a minority with fine sensibilities, why won't thegive the minority decisive vote then?
>> majority rule. askingrkes: but i am why. >> it is a fundamental of american democracy. prof. arkes: what makes it a fundamental? this is the only operational form of government. if we mean government by consent of the governed, we have to establish what the consent is, what the people choose. ok? now we have to decide, what is the operational form? it's the role of majority within restraints.al the majority is going to understand it cannot decide everything. taking it down to essentials, still, what is the ground through which i say the rule of the minority is inadmissible in principle? what would it be? >> i think what he is saying is you would always end up with
complete extreme, there would be one person determining the will of everyone else. he said, on what grounds is a wholly inadmissible? >> a single person should not have the jurisdiction to determine -- hadley arkes: why is that? >> because there are constraints of other people -- he might have his own beliefs. prof. arkes: actually, would it matter if we knew who the single person was? if churchill or thomas moore walked in the room and said, everybody gets one. a fool and a fool of aculiar description to take
judgment in defense of somebody obviously knows far more. we are calling for winston. it is may 1940, we are calling for winston. we are going to be very dependent on what winston does, we trust his judgment. but the point is we don't know who is in the pile. right? pile,owing who is in the not knowing what the sensibilities are and who is distributing it, what do we say the rule of the minority is wholly admissible? i think some people are going to go for this. >> [inaudible] arkes: you are trying to explain first why, given the differences between majority and
minority, the rule of the minority is wholly admissible, on what grounds is it inadmissible? if you are assuming the role of majority is right. the original point is on what basis did we say that the rule of the minority is wholly inadmissible? >> [inaudible] those who would be in the minority who disagree with the law are creating better laws and would be able to create a statute of their own. they would filter themselves out to end those others would be able to create probably a statute of their own. prof. arkes: it at some point you are going to have to reach a moment where someone is going to have to decide. right? now you have to pick it up at this point. i have a large pile and a small pile. who is going to pick it up? issue, noke the gator
one in that small pile has [inaudible] prof. arkes: but you don't know. not knowing who is who. when he says wholly inadmissible, could it be simply on the principle is operating in considering the ultimate grounds in question. do the completion for me. what are the alternatives? if we are serious about government by the consent of the governed, we have to define some way of making that governance operational. the rule of majority, not minority, as a permanent arrangement. the majority should change
usually switches in public opinion, and with constitutional restraints. whoever rejects that must fly either to anarchy or despotism in some form. let's consider it. if i reject the notion that i can be bound by a majority operating under constitutional restraint, what are the grounds in which i would reject that notion that i can be bound? >> [inaudible] prof. arkes: you are -- >> something unconstitutional. prof. arkes: who is going to make the decision about what is constitutional? you yourself, or is there going to be a process to way that question -- to weigh that question? i think i mentioned the first day, james wilson said that if
the law in america would be different to the law in britain, the law in britain begins with the notion of a sovereign issuing commands. the law and america will begin with the recognition that you can have an unjust law. something can be passed with all the trappings of legality and still be wanting the substance of lawfulness. that is built-in from the very beginning. lincoln is that this primary level, saying if you deny that you can be bound, why say a system is working under constitutional restraints? if you think you have a constitutional issue, one kosher
butcher establishment in brooklyn 1936 -- we have arranged a system in which one private person can go to a farm and demand to know the ground of law on which he is being committed and whether that law comports with the fundamental law -- it is already contrived that way. and now somebody says, i don't have to obey things like that. now, it has already been arranged. following link in on this, i can say, i don't have to make anything like that. now if i want to claim that position i cannot be committed, even to a system governed by consent, which works with the consent of the governed and operates under constitutional restraints and i say i cannot be committed. he says there are two ways in which you cannot be committed. what may be the way?
>> [inaudible] we are not obliged to follow the law, we are either above it as a god or below it as a subhuman. so there are only two choices, and in all situations, man must be obliged to follow the law. you screwed up the last class by jumping ahead to the conclusion. let me explain mr. greenfields culmination of this session. if i say i cannot be committed, then there is no ground on which anyone can be committed. there are no propositions of their. true propositions that can claim my respect. like people may not be held responsible for acts [indiscernible] two contradictory propositions both cannot be true. why can't you respected if it is
not true of necessity. if there are either no propositions out there that cannot claim my respect -- it could be one, either there is nothing binding on me because i acknowledge no ground of principle that could ever elicit my respect and obedience. i cannot understand any thing of that sort. or it could be as mr. greenfeld says, i am above the laws made by others. plato would say, i am a creature not made like other people. or as lincoln would later say in that famous each, people part of the tribe of the eagle. they soar above others. they cannot be held to the same kinds of laws that bind others. you are either the tribe of the eagle, above the law, or you are beneath the law. you cannot be committed because you cannot understand the grounds on which anyone can be rightfully committed. in other words, anyone who
rejects it, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left. anarchy, there is no ground for commitment for creatures who cannot understand the ground of commitment. or despotism, somebody is above the laws made for people. you are either beneath the law or above it. you are what? >> eight the -- thief or a god. prof. arkes: my point is, this is lincoln making his way to his
own reflection, to the first pages of aristotle. it is a remarkable thing, when you see lincoln through his own reflection. you see lincoln moving along the same paths that thomas aquinas -- and he is not tutored in this -- you just see a mind that is calibrated in a different way. that is part of what makes this so moving. all right? questions? i am open. questions? what we are doing next time, the way this thing moves in the next the gists we moved to of this. let me just give you another reparation in a different way. let's go to this one.
lincoln said that the doctrine of self-government was absolutely and eternally right. the only rightful form of government, as jefferson said. and when he said things like that, there is no whiff of a contingent on the problematic. he was articulating what he thought was a necessary truth, something that would be a truth grounded in nature. disclosing rights that were grounded in the same nature, rights that would be the same in all places where nature remains the same. a strong strand of opinion. you know, the dominant force on this campus, quite at odds with the notion of natural rights. rights grounded in nature. the orthodoxy of the moment is rights are simply the mediocrity coverriarchal is him to the role of white males.
nature is malleable, it can be socially constructed according to the local culture. understand that opinion, which orthodoxy and the campuses these days are utterly at odds with the argument of understanding lincoln and the american founders and the force of law that fed the anti-slavery movement and establish the american regime. that is very much what is at issue with us today and what is at stake here. because if it is really true that what he says, at the heart of the matter is an absolute truth, a moral truth, a truth about the rightful or wrong for way for human beings to be governed, and absolute truth that will hold at all times and places, that is the central question that has to be a mop in this course. -- that has to be unlocked in this course. what are the properties of a necessary moral truth?